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Saving water with a smart irrigation system | Technology in Action

An SDOT crew member checks on a smart plant irrigation system at Broadway and Boren Ave in Capitol Hill. Photo: SDOT

Blog stats: 400 words | 2-minute read

SDOT takes care of thousands of trees, plants, and other vegetation across Seattle’s streets and public areas. As part of our ongoing efforts, we’re always looking for ways to be more effective stewards of our resources and the environment. In 2014, we initiated a pilot program to introduce new technology for our field crews. This technology aimed to monitor our plant watering systems, ultimately enhancing water conservation efforts.

As part of the 2014 pilot project, we selected the ‘Rainbird IQ4’ system to be used on landscaping in South Lake Union. The technology allows our team to monitor, schedule, operate, and manage water flow levels. Moreover, the system helps detect any leaks or malfunctions in the watering system’s components as soon as they occur. This means our crew members can respond quickly and make repairs to ensure the plants continue to thrive.

In 2020, our team members Cliserio Bonilla, Joe Markovich, and Gary Hren worked together to introduce internet-connected water meters made by Metron Waterscope. This technology facilitates remote monitoring of sprinkler systems by analyzing water usage data. The system also detects any equipment malfunctions so that we can make rapid repairs where needed.

These technologies allow our team to decrease trips to investigate possible water leaks, saving us time, money, and helping reduce our carbon emissions. Before having this tech in our toolbelt, a water leak could take days or even weeks to be discovered, depending on the scale of the issue. Today, we have 13 Rainbird IQ systems and 34 internet-connected water flow meters throughout the city. Together, these smart systems help our staff deliver more efficient operations and save water for the public and the environment.

A man works at a computer in a small office.
Cliserio Bonilla monitors data from the smart irrigation system at his desk. Photo: SDOT
Several people wearing orange safety vests and white hard hats work to install smart watering systems with dirt and grass and shovels in the background, as well as trucks and heavy equipment.
Cliserio Bonilla and other SDOT team members install new smart watering systems next to the street in South Lake Union. Photo: SDOT
A variety of plants, trees, and vegetation outdoors with concrete elements and a ramp in the background. A sign notes access to I-90 and I-5 freeways via next right.
Trees, plants, and other vegetation growing near T-Mobile Park in Seattle. Photo: SDOT

To learn more about our environmental, sustainability, and climate-related work, check out our Earth Day 2024 overview blog post. Thank you for your time and interest in our efforts!

Editor’s Note – 4/26/2024: we added a photo showing our staff member monitoring data from the smart irrigation system at their desk.